Yesterday, to the delight of gamers around the world, Microsoft performed a pretty dramatic U-turn, ditching a swathe of policies surrounding its next-generation console, the Xbox One.
In short, users will be free to play retail or downloadable games anywhere offline, the unpopular daily login system scrapped for a one-time activation. Perhaps even a bigger relief to gamers is that Microsoft has done away with its draconian used-game restrictions. Before the 180-flip, Xbox One users would only be allowed to play borrowed or second-hand games if they purchased a “license”.
Now, as with the Xbox 360, you are free to swap and trade-in freely: it’s business as usual.
Needless to say, this is great news for gamers. Sure, there are a few unpopular features that remain (namely Kinect 2 and Microsoft’s drive to promote the console as a multimedia platform) but the most egregious policies have been now been remedied. Good on Microsoft, eh?
Well, no, not really. If there’s one thing we should all take away from this it is that we literally had to force them to make these changes.
Ever since the Xbox One was revealed to the world last month, it has been the butt of every industry-related joke.
However, beneath all the “TV, TV, TV, sports, sports, sports” wisecracks and “where the games at?” jibes, there was a serious message being put across. Having gone from underdog to being a top player, Microsoft was now throwing its weight around at the expense of its dedicated customers, touting the new Xbox as one box to rule the living room and not the next innovation in gaming.
On top of that, Microsoft had the audacity to impose a string of totalitarian restrictions, instructing users exactly where, when, and how to play the products they purchased with their hard earned money. It was a complete joke -from top to bottom- a big middle finger to those Xbox supporters who made the brand what it is today; and it only got worse.
At E3, Microsoft made an excellent delivery, showcasing a string of solid first party titles and exclusive, yet a shadow still loomed. Though games such as Quantum Break, Halo 5, and Project Spark piqued the interest of many, this excitement was dampened by a slew of unanswered yet extremely-important questions about the console.
Even when PR reps and guys in-the-know, including Don Mattrick himself, responded to the press, it was hard to determine who really had their facts right. Instead of coming clean, Microsoft was still floundering behind the scenes, fumbling around for answers that would appease gamers and justify their unpopular Xbox One policies.
Meanwhile, stock prices fell (if only marginally) and the internet’s distaste for the company and its console only grew. Reddit was aflame with “conversion” threads, memes, and Xbox support trolling. Even Sony was in on the joke when it released an “instructional video”, showing PlayStation gamers how to trade and swap their games.
Finally we had the Facebook poll conducted by Amazon, asking gamers which platform they would side with. The result was almost unanimous with a staggering 30,000 favouring the PlayStation 4 and not even 2,000 rallying behind the Xbox One. It seemed that, wherever you searched on the internet, not one person had a good word to say about Microsoft’s next-generation platform.
So, back to our main point, will the recent U-turn change people’s perspective of the Xbox One? Put simply, nobody really knows.
For many the damage has already been done. Microsoft, quite clumsily, revealed itself as a money-hungry corporation willing to set aside the core needs of gamers to get its console in every household. Even after this latest newsbreak, there’s a good chance many left chagrined by Microsoft’s rhetoric of ownership and licenses will still opt in the opposite direction.
With that said, there’s always a good portion of the market who don’t stay on top of gaming news and may not know that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One even exist. It’s these gamers who are left unaffected by Microsoft’s previous floundering yet they are ones set to gain the most from the announcement.
Them, and of course, brick and mortar outlets such as GAME and Gamestop. Pre-owned is a huge part of their business and the news that Xbox One games will be tradeable has no doubt prompted managers to already set aside vast stretches of shelf space in anticipation.
Whichever way you look at it, the playing field has been somewhat levelled and, in the words of many an onlooker, the console war can now truly begin…